Study finds keys to longer life: Going to college, staying in shape

EDINBURGH, Scotland — Maintaining a healthy weight and continuing education are two ways to help ensure you live a longer life, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland examined the genetic information of 600,000 individuals, along with that of their parents, hoping to see how different biological and behavioral markers affected lifespan.

Person measuring waist, weight
A new study finds that maintaining a healthy weight and continuing your education beyond college are keys to enjoying a longer life.

Since many lifestyle choices are affected by DNA, the researchers’ planned approach allowed them to link the influence of both specific genes and comportment on life expectancy.

One of their major findings was that for overweight individuals, each additional two pounds of weight cut their life expectancy by two full months, while each year of post-secondary education added 11 months to one’s lifespan.

Overall, cigarette smoking and a genetic predisposition toward the traits associated with lung cancer had the strongest influence in shortening lifespan. Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day throughout adulthood chops seven years off of your lifespan, although this effect can be curtailed for some by quitting.

Meanwhile, having diabetes was also a risk factor for dying younger, while two separate genes were identified as either adding or cutting a handful of months to one’s lifespan.

The researchers relied on a broad dataset comprised of over 25 separate population studies across three continents, including that of the UK Biobank.

“The power of big data and genetics allow us to compare the effect of different behaviors and diseases in terms of months and years of life lost or gained, and to distinguish between mere association and causal effect,” says researcher and professor Jim Wilson in a university news release, explaining how their resources assisted them.

The full study was published online last week in the journal Nature Communications.


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